Mathematical models have been used to provide an explicit framework for understanding malaria transmission dynamics in human population for over 100 years. With the disease still thriving and threatening to be a major source of death and disability due to changed environmental and socio-economic conditions, it is necessary to make a critical assessment of the existing models, and study their evolution and efficacy in describing the host-parasite biology. In this article, starting from the basic Ross model, the key mathematical models and their underlying features, based on their specific contributions in the understanding of spread and transmission of malaria have been discussed. The first aim of this article is to develop, starting from the basic models, a hierarchical structure of a range of deterministic models of different levels of complexity. The second objective is to elaborate, using some of the representative mathematical models, the evolution of modelling strategies to describe malaria incidence by including the critical features of host-vector-parasite interactions. Emphasis is more on the evolution of the deterministic differential equation based epidemiological compartment models with a brief discussion on data based statistical models. In this comprehensive survey, the approach has been to summarize the modelling activity in this area so that it helps reach a wider range of researchers working on epidemiology, transmission, and other aspects of malaria. This may facilitate the mathematicians to further develop suitable models in this direction relevant to the present scenario, and help the biologists and public health personnel to adopt better understanding of the modelling strategies to control the disease.